Cover Image: Northwind

Northwind

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Member Reviews

I love Gray Paulsen's books. This one was no exception. It's a solid middle school read. Fans of his other books will gobble this one up.
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I love the way Gary Paulsen writes and this novel did not disappoint. The word that comes to mind, is magical.
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In the true spirit of Gary Paulsen we are given another Northwest survival story for the ages. Although this is middle grade I enjoyed it. Paulsen is beautifully descriptive which helps paint an easy picture of the story in my head. I feel that middle grade students, especially boys, would appreciate this one the most.
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I was both excited and sad to read Northwind. Excited for a new book from an author I recommend to students all the time and sad to know it is his last.  It is an historical fiction adventure, yet there is not as much action as other adventure books.  While I found the tale compelling, I fear my students will have trouble falling into this book as many will not have the background to relate to Leif's journey and the beginning of this book is so very sad - not so much what many of my students need right now..Even though very different, the Tom Banks movie "Cast Away" kept coming to mind as I read this - one person, all alone, trying to survive. While the plot seems to move slowly, the survival story is strong and Paulson's descriptions help you to be able to picture everything in your mind. I specially enjoyed reading Paulson's author notes about his connection to this story which made it seem to be a "full circle" way to end such an amazing career.
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I've loved Gary Paulsen's work since Hatchet, which I read when I was 9(?). I feel really honored to have had the chance to read his final book so close to his passing. I'll miss him, but this was a wonderful last memory.
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Gary Paulsen has written novels before that contain meditative sections of reverence to nature, speculations on life. But in Northwind he has elevated the inner musings of the central character almost to the point that they become not just thoughts, but nearly actions, plot. The lone, often treacherous journey of an orphan boy in a canoe is suited to the lyrical language and observations. As with Gone to the Woods, Paulsen seems at times to speak to a much more adult audience than to one middle- school-aged. But while the tension and action are subtle here, sensitive readers and Paulsen fans will appreciate this, his final book.
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A very compelling title, by a well-known author. This book shares life threatening dangers and adventure. It takes the reader to another place and time. A truly unique novel.
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Knowing that this is one of Paulsen's final books puts extra pressure on this narrative. We want it to be perfect. Of course it isn't but it is a solid read. While the heavily historic setting makes it a harder sell for some middle grade readers, it is very atmospheric. And it's about more than just the drive for survival. Leif spends much of his journey reflecting on his place in the world and what it means to truly live. For a kid into survival stories, this is worth a read. And for the adult who grew up on Hatchet, this book is a nicely contemplative bookend to Paulsen's career.
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Thank you Mac Kids Books for the gifted book that I read along with the library audio.

I really wanted to love this book. But I think it's just too literary for my taste. It is a middle grade survival story written in a very poetic way. Leif is an orphan, fleeing his disease stricken home where he never felt safe anyway. He takes off on a wooden canoe into a new life. He experiences nature in all her wonder. Birds, bears, and whales are all a part of his tale, and it is beautiful. It reminds me a bit of Island of the Blue Dolphins or Alone by Megan E. Freeman which I read last year. However, unlike those two titles, I didn't feel as attached to Leif as a character. Overall I still think it's a stunning book, but just not in my wheelhouse.
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The cover of this theme driven novel says it all --- between the towering glacier cliffs which line sides of the fjord, is one solitary boy in his boat, proceeding in life.  Whereas Paulsen's “Hatchet” depicted a survival in the depths of woods, “Northwind” documents one boy's survival along the Norwegian coast. When cholera begins to decimate his camp, he is placed in a canoe with Little Carl and told to head north and not come back. His young companion dies, and Leif buries the child with as much reverence as possible. When he looked at the items he's brought, he realizes that he had prepared for death, but as he canoes up the coast and around the islands, he learns to survive by watching the balance between the orcas, dolphins, ravens, and other wildlife,  and he wants to be part of the balance. This was Paulsen's last book, and it is an ode to his Norwegian roots. Beautiful. Thank you Farrar Straus Giroux and Netgalley for the e-galley
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No one writes an adventure story like Gary Paulsen. Hatchet is very popular right now. This story will captivate the readers just as much if not more. I love the setting, the characters and the adventure.
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This middle grade novel set along the coast of Norway appealed to me because
a) the author
b) the setting (both my grandparents were from Norway. How utterly wonderful to have a book set in the beautiful Nordic outdoors)
C) the cover art is stunning

This both was and was not what I expected. I expected a novel following a lone character, experiencing the sea and coast the way Hatchet covers the forest (per the flap description). And it was this. I was surprised by the sad melancholy beginnings to this boy, Leif. After finishing, I can see how it is partly necessary background to his character transformation throughout the book. Although he is the lone human for the bulk of the book, we see his character develop dramatically. We also see beautiful descriptions of the natural world. However, there are many descriptions that involve blood and sickness and I didn’t like to read explicitly of it… and wonder if a 10 year old would? The beginning was, for me, too dark feeling and a tad too graphic.

The writing is lyrical, almost poetic. There is both a simplicity and a song-style to the writing and I thought it worked well for this type of story. I enjoyed the author’s note in the back for the extra information.

This is a slower paced book that will appeal to those who love nature and enjoy character growth.


*I was provided with a copy from NetGalley for an honest review.
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I'll admit, this was a total cover request - that cover is gorgeous! - but if I'd been able to read a sample first, I wouldn't have requested this book as I cannot get on with the style.
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What a charming middle grade novel! I can’t wait to add it to our bookshelf. Thanks for the opportunity to read it!
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When I saw that Gary Pulsen was the surhir of this book, I had to read it.  I had to keep in mind that this book is targeted at middle grade aged readers.

I love the imagery that Gary Pulsen is consistently able to portray.  I could see in my mind's eye the landscaping, I could feel the urgency when danger was around in the story. 

Northwind is set in the North Sean where orphaned Leif is learning to survive and thrive.

My take away: to take what you learn in life and see how it works for you.  Leif is taught life lessons from his time on the sea, as well as Old Carl and nature.  Leif takes the things he learns ln admits those lessons that work for him and gains perspective from lessons that are different than his own thinking.  In life we can always learn from our surroundings.  Some things we learn will fit in to our lives and enhance our lives.  Other things we learn give us perspective on how other people love and make choices.

The question I ask myself is, would I read this book again.  The answer is yes.  And again, make a movie on this book too.
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Northwind is Gary Paulsen’s newest novel.  The story follows a boy on his journey up a river after a deadly event in his village.  Leif kept paddling north following a river out to the sea.  The book contains the backstory of Leif in places, which explains why he is where he is.  The book also contains some Nordic legends and viewpoints. 

While well written and obviously accurate in the facts about the ocean and traveling, the book did not seem to end in a way that I understood. I love how Leif is able to learn and he found comfort in his learning with the whales and other animals in the sea.  I was less clear about when and where the book's setting was.  The book’s descriptions were so well drawn I felt like I could see and hear them.

Northwind does have the adventure and surprises of Hatchet, but it is more meditative and quiet in its discoveries.  I felt like the book just ran out of material as the boy ran further north.  I am unsure how I feel about this novel, quite frankly. However I must say, I wanted to read the novel and I was mesmerized by the various interactions between Leif and the animals.  Northwind is the type of book where kids either love it or find it okay.
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I've got a confession to make, this was my first Gary Paulsen book. [book:Hatchet|50] has been on my TBR since... well, forever. When I spotted this one on NetGalley, knowing it was Paulsen's last book after his death back in October 2021, I felt compelled to request it. 

What I enjoyed...
- Northwind is survival story. While I would consider this story more of a "quiet" story without much thrilling action, reading about Leif's day-to-day struggles to survive the harsh environment kept me interested in Leif's journey. This book reminded me of my childhood reading experience of reading [book:Island of the Blue Dolphins|41044096]. 
- Paulsen's writing is lyrical, giving the story a poetic vibe. His writing style made me feel like I was listening to a bedtime story. 
- The author's note is a must read to get the full impact of this story. Paulsen discloses that this story was inspired by his Grandmothers stories and from his own personal sailing experiences. If you read this story and have mixed feelings about the ending, I encourage you to read the author's note. The ending felt fitting after learning more. 
- Paulsen does a wonderful job placing the reader in the setting. From the landscape descriptions to the animal encounters, I felt like I was in the canoe with Leif. 

What could have been improved....
- Paulsen included far too much description of the landscape. If this bothered me, I would assume it would turn off middle grade aged readers too. 
- Northwind is told in 3rd person. I wonder if it had been written in 1st if it would have helped readers connect a bit more with Leif. 

Overall...
I love a good survival story and Northwind delivers! I cannot wait to pick up Paulsen's backlist. 

*** Thank you to Netgalley for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review***
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Pulled from Paulsen's own memories of paddling, this is the story of a young boy in a canoe - learning to trust himself and his instincts. The setting is brought to life in Paulsen's details and description. You can practically hear the waves lapping against the canoe as you read.
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A lyrical tale of survival, in which the main character Leif slowly comes to an awareness of himself. Kind of a typical mid-grade plot perhaps but this story struck me as unique and that is probably due to Paulsen's wordsmithing. 
Leif's journey begins as he is sent away from his village due to a plague. From death, illness and encounters with wildlife, common (or less-than common) choices are granted a broader weight from the perspective of a child-to-man/survivor - still unsure of exactly how I want to phrase this distinction. It is a knowledge of self, a knowledge of a journey undertaken that I seek to highlight with this description here. Leif's logic and rationalization from one setting to the next is fascinating to follow. It is, at once, disarming, thought-provoking, and compelling. Compounding this character depth with Paulsen's characteristic sense of setting, environment and it is a quick read that lingers in the mind. I would definitely recommend this as a library/lesson addition for any public and school librarians
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Gary Paulsen was a master storyteller. His ability to capture a person’s essence was remarkable. And that was never truer than in Northwind. It’s a character study of Leif, who spends the majority of the novel surrounded by nature rather than humans. His interactions with the natural world are full of danger and surprise.

Northwind is a beautiful narrative that draws you in from the beginning. Gary’s writing is elegant and sparse. You feel as if you are in the boat alongside Leif, paddling through the cold, blue waters. Though Gary wrote for young readers, his words will resonate with adults, too.

Northwind is among my top books by Gary. It should be on your to-read list if you haven’t already read it.
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